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Prior five outs away from win
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10/15/2003  2:22 AM ET 
Prior five outs away from win
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Mark Prior allowed five runs (three earned) in 7 1/3 innings. (Paul Sancya)
CHICAGO -- A fan grabbing a potential out in the eighth inning didn't bother Mark Prior. Shortstop Alex Gonzalez's error didn't faze him either.

"They're a good ballclub," Prior said of the Florida Marlins. "Give them credit."

The Marlins rallied for eight runs in the eighth inning Tuesday night to beat Prior and the Chicago Cubs, 8-3, and force Game 7 in the National League Championship Series.

Prior took the loss, the first by the Cubs' superhyped tandem of Prior and Kerry Wood. The 23-year-old Prior, making his third postseason start, gave up five runs -- three earned -- on six hits over 7 1/3 innings.

The loss snapped a string of five straight wins for the right-hander, who now is 12-2 since coming off the disabled list Aug. 5.

"They're a good team, they're a team that doesn't stop fighting, doesn't give up," Prior said of the Marlins. "I throw the ball to [Juan Pierre] and he hit it down the line just in the right spot [for a double].

    Mark Prior   /   P
Height: 6'5"
Weight: 220
Bats/Throws: R/R

More info:
Player page
Stats
Splits
Cubs site

"I have a good battle with [Luis] Castillo and I don't execute on a 1-2 curveball and I think if I do, we get out of there and maybe we're on the field celebrating," Prior said. "You can't second guess. I can look in the mirror and say I did what I could."

Castillo popped a ball up toward the stands in left in the at-bat in the eighth and a fan tried to grab the ball, interfering with Cubs left fielder Moises Alou's attempt. The Cubs claimed interference, but the umpires ruled that the ball wasn't in the field of play.

"You can't blame the entire game on that play," Prior said. "Hopefully people don't treat the guy too bad. Ninety-nine percent of the people in that situation would do the same thing."

What compounded the Cubs' problems that inning was an error by shortstop Alex Gonzalez on a potential double-play ball.

"My defense over the year has made great plays for me," Prior said. "The ball kicked up on him. I'm not going to fault Gonzo. That didn't cost us the game either. We didn't execute in the eighth inning. Now we find ourselves going to Game 7."

    Kerry Wood   /   P
Height: 6'5"
Weight: 220
Bats/Throws: R/R

More info:
Player page
Stats
Splits
Cubs site

Wood will start for the Cubs, who are trying to get to the World Series for the first time since 1945. Chicago had a 3-1 lead in the best-of-seven NLCS and were five outs away Tuesday night from advancing.

But Prior won't listen to talk about jinxes or curses or goats.

"Let's be honest -- they're a good ballclub," Prior said of the Marlins. "We knew it would be a tough series. Did we let one get away? Probably. Nobody said it was going to be easy. We come back [Wednesday] and go to work again."

Prior fanned six Tuesday and struck out 11 in his two starts against the Marlins. He was the winner in Game 2, giving up two earned runs over seven-plus innings.

"I can go home tonight and say I gave everything I possibly had," Prior said of his outing. "I left a couple balls up and they found some holes. But overall we just didn't get the job done at the end when we needed to. We'll come back tomorrow."

"I've got nothing bad to say about Mark Prior," Cubs manager Dusty Baker said. "He didn't lose anything. They just hit him."

Carrie Muskat is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to approval by Major League Baseball or its clubs.



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